“I don’t believe we need to know what below zero feels like.
Or why we die: that, too, I don’t think we need to know.
Why life is hard? I think not.
It’s hot inside, it’s cold out:
that’s already a lot to know…”
–from “I Don’t Think We Need to Know” by Jim Moore
This past weekend, I did something that is likely to become a thing of the past. Something that I have taken for granted is a right, but which most of the world would consider a wasteful luxury, and certainly not in the least eco-friendly. I took a four hour road trip by myself. Driving solo through the midwestern landscape, the horizon called me, if not to adventure, at least to less-familiar places, faces I didn’t already recognize.
For most of the drive, I listened to “All Things Considered” on NPR. The stories were interesting, but as we’ve all experienced, the news has a tendency to depress. I realized, speeding along the interstate, that lately I’ve thought a lot about things I’d rather NOT know – the fact that butterflies, honeybees and millions of other species are disappearing and may be gone within my limited lifetime. Or that police officers were arrested for the killings resulting in mass graves in Mexico. Or that sugar may be a toxin implicated in the rise in US cancer rates.
While I’d rather not know these things, I believe they are things I should know.
On Saturday, in Magers and Quinn, a huge independent bookstore in Minneapolis, I picked up a volume of poetry, Lightning at Dinner by Jim Moore, and discovered the poem quoted above. And during my lovely four hour drive home on Sunday, I had leisure to consider: Are there things I don’t think we need to know?
Here’s my list, delivered less poetically than Moore’s:
- I don’t think we need to know why the sky is blue, though I’m told the answer’s easy. It is enough that it is beautiful and changeable and can handle all the prayers and dreams we confide to it.
- Do we need to know how many germs, and what kind, are on the elevator button? I don’t think so, “Good Morning America”. Please stop telling us!
- I doubt we need to know the illusory difference between a “certificate of live birth” and a “birth certificate”, despite some individuals’ need to keep talking about it.
- We don’t need to know why, some days, our beds feel too comfortable to leave. Just luxuriate in that moment.
- Do we need to know why the grass we just crossed in our bare feet was suddenly, inexplicably, wet? Let’s agree not to think about it.
- Some people feel like home the moment we meet them. Do we need to know why, or just be grateful, ever so grateful, that they do?
- Do we need to know the inner workings of grace? Or to pinpoint the brain’s intricate wiring that leads us to experience what we call faith? And let go of the mystery and wonder? I hope not.
- I don’t believe we need to know how love happens, only that it does.